In order to investigate how social stress affects immune cells, a research team asked 5,744 adults over the age of 50 in depth for a variety of stressful life events and examined their blood samples. The more stressed people had higher percentages of depleted white blood cells and fewer fresh cells, so their immune profile was biologically older. This connection remained visible even when various influencing factors such as education level, smoking, alcohol or BMI were taken into account.
The study also found that the most stressed people tend to have poorer eating and exercise habits. “This partly explains why they have faster immune aging,” said Dr. Eric Klopack of the University of Southern California. Therefore, improved diet and exercise in the elderly may have the potential to offset stress-related immune aging.
The aging of the immune system is a long-recognized effect, known by experts as immunosenescence: as we age, more worn-out white blood cells circulate, while the number of “naïve” white blood cells that can take on new invaders decreases . Immune aging has been linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, reduced vaccine efficacy and aging of organ systems.
What: DOI 10.1073 / pnas.2202780119